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Christchurch man calls for greater controls on 'legalised scalpers' Viagogo

In just over six years, 1182 complaints have been made to the Commerce Commission about ticket reseller Viagogo, including eight this year.

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The Commerce Commission’s received eight already this year. Source: 1 NEWS

One of the latest events to see Kiwis complaining after purchasing tickets from the Swiss company’s website is the Elton John tour, which begins in Dunedin next week.

“Their website is like, you know, ‘we've got them here,’ it just sort of grabs you like, ‘oh great, there's tickets available,” Christchurch man Matt Simmonds said.

Mr Simmonds wanted to buy tickets to Elton John’s concert as seeing the superstar was on his friend’s bucket list.

He was unaware Viagogo was a reselling website and purchased three tickets for $829 after tickets ran out on Ticketmaster.

His friend told him about other peoples’ experiences on Viagogo after the purchase.

“I thought, ‘oh my god, I’ve been taken.’” He received the tickets this week.

“Sounds like they’re legalised scalpers.

“The seats are just miles away, they’re way at the back stadium and it's just not at all what I thought I purchased.

“It's illegal what they’re doing so shut them down, anywhere else you’d be shut down,” he said.

Mr Simmonds said Viagogo told him he agreed to their terms and conditions when purchasing the tickets, after he reached out to the company.

A spokesperson for Viagogo said the company believes its platform is compliant and clearly states that prices may be lower or higher than face value.

"In the rare circumstance that there is a problem, we step in to find comparable replacements or offer a full refund," the statement said.

Commerce Commission's case against controversial ticket re-seller Viagogo dismissed

Viagogo could not comment on Mr Simmonds case without having customer purchase information.

"Despite what is reported in the media we have thousands of customers return and use our platform," it said.

The company said it will continue to work closely with regulators.

Massey University Professor Malcolm Wright said the business model is legitimate, but it’s in all parties interests to have some regulation in place for ticket reselling to make it fair.

“We do need services like this - sometimes people can't go to a concert for whatever reason, why shouldn’t they be able to sell their tickets?

"I think there's some shared responsibility there; partly it's up to the ticket resellers to make it clear on their website exactly what service they’re offering but it's also up to the consumers to have a look and see what they’re buying,” he said.

Claire Turnham, the founder of several ‘Victim of Viagogo’ groups on Facebook which more than 14,000 members combined, said there’s a significant emotional toll on people who have bad experiences with the website.

“A lot of people don’t even realise they’re on a secondary ticketing site so when they’re buying their tickets, it’s a shock to them to realise that they've paid way over the face value,” she said.

“What we have seen over the last three years is that people’s lives are really affected, people have lost their jobs, their relationships have suffered, their health has suffered”.

Ms Turnham said people should contact Viagogo if they’re concerned with their purchase and educate themselves about purchasing tickets online, through groups like the Fanfair Alliance.

Ms Turnham said while in the United Kingdom, the website is required to make the face value of tickets prominent and there is greater protection for consumers, the changes have not gone far enough.

“What I would like to see is really strict controls.

“I really do believe that all resold tickets, there should be a cap on it of say 10 per cent,” she said.

Ms Turnham said Google has a role to play in the upset felt by people internationally by directing them to the Viagogo website through an ad that appears regularly at the top of ticket searches on the search engine.

But a Google spokesperson said after suspending Viagogo for four months last year, the company has made the changes required of it including making the total cost clearer from the beginning of a ticket purchase.

“If we want to start choosing who can advertise and who can't advertise we need to have some very, very strong reasons for doing so,” Massey University Professor Malcolm Wright said.

Ms Turnham said she has advised Ed Sheeran’s tour management, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi and New Zealand Rugby on the issue.

"Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister, Kris Faafoi, is considering options and advice from MBIE at the moment and expects to take recommendations to Cabinet in the next few months," Mr Faafoi’s press secretary said in a statement.

The Commerce Commission has been investigating Viagogo since 2017 and alleges the company has breached the Fair Trading Act.

An interim injunction application will be heard at the High Court in Auckland on March 6.